The 2019-2020 NBA season is still in its infancy stages, but there are a few surprises up to this point. Off to a horrid start are the defending Western Conference champions, while two cellar dwellers from last season have been winning at a highly unexpected rate. Here are the observations over the first couple weeks of the season.
In the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics are leading the way with a 5-1 record.
Kemba Walker heads a potent scoring trio averaging 26 per game, while Jayson Tatum and Gordon Hayward each have added over 20 per night.
The Milwaukee Bucks are getting stellar play from MVP candidate Giannis Atetokounmpo, who is averaging 29 points and 14.3 rebounds per game. Khris Middleton, an all-star last season, has added nearly 19 points per game, while veteran sharpshooter Kyle Korver provides a three-point threat, hitting nearly 50 percent from three-point range. Milwaukee leads the Central Division with a 6-2 record.
Sitting at 5-2 are the Miami Heat, Philadelphia 76ers, and last season’s NBA champions, the Toronto Raptors. Kendrick Nunn leads the Heat with a 18.3 scoring average and is one of seven on the teams in double digits scoring. Not among the top threats in the East in our NBA preview article, the Raptors are hanging near the top in large part to the play of Pascal Siakam (25.6 points per game) and newly acquired Kyle Lowry (24 points per game).
We picked the 76ers as one of the top contenders in the Eastern Conference and they got off to a 5-0 start before dropping their last two against the surprising Phoenix Suns and the defensively tough Utah Jazz. Joel Embiid leads the 76ers with a 24.3 scoring average and 11.8 rebounds per game. Tobias Harris is the second best scoring option at 19 per game. It’s worth noting that Ben Simmons, the catalyst of the team, injured his right shoulder and his status upcoming is in question.
Out west, the Los Angeles Lakers lead the pack with a 6-1 record, losing only to the Clippers in their season opener. As expected, Anthony Davis and LeBron James have been forces to reckon with. Davis is averaging 26.6 points and 10.9 rebounds, while James leads the league in assists at 11.1 per game to go along with 26 points and eight rebounds. Danny Green provides a long range scoring option, and Kyle Kuzma is slowly getting back into the mix following an ankle injury. His presence will further strengthen an already dominant group.
The two surprise teams in the NBA so far are the Mavericks and Suns, both at 5-2 so far this season
The teams combined to win just 52 last season with the Suns managing only 19 victories. Luka Doncic is another MVP candidate, leading the Mavericks with a 26.7 scoring average to go along with 9.9 rebounds and 9.1 assists per game.
In Phoenix, Devin Booker helped the team with a surprising victory over Philadelphia and in fact the Suns have also knocked off the Clippers and Warriors. Booker is averaging 26 points per game, while Kelly Oubre (17.4 points), Aron Baynes (15 points) and Ricky Rubio (12.7 points, 8.5 assists) have provided an excellent supporting cast.
Also in the mix are the Nuggets at 5-2 and the Clippers, Jazz and Rockets at 5-3. The Clippers have a trio of scorers in Kawhi Leonard, Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell to keep them in contention for the long haul. Leonard is averaging 29.3 points and Williams and Harrell consistently drop 20 per night.
As long as James Harden plays at a high level, the Rockets will be in the conversation, as we noted in our NBA preview. He’s averaging 36.5 points per game despite struggling from the floor. This is in large part due to getting to the line 16 times per game, hitting nearly 91 percent of his free throw attempts. He’s averaging nearly 5.5 points per game more than Damian Lillard of the Trailblazers, who is second in the NBA in scoring average.
Steph Curry will be out three months
Although we didn’t think the Warriors would contend to the title, their starts has been worse than expected. At 2-6, there is nothing going right with the team and to make matters worse, Steph Curry will be out three months following surgery on his broken left hand. With him and Klay Thompson out, the scoring load will fall on the shoulders of D’Angelo Russell, averaging 19 points per game. The season is still young, but it’s difficult to see the Warriors coming back to pose any threat.